Ace of Hearts


Valentine’s Day typically means roses, chocolates, wine, and a romantic comedy that will leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling. However, Netflix has given its viewers something much better than the five dollar heart box of chocolates found in the “holiday” isles of CVS, instead we received the return of Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and his deliciously deceitful ways.

The second installment of the Netflix original series “House of Cards” gave its fans an emotional roller coaster. Throughout the first season, the Underwoods showed their thirst for power through the manipulation of multiple people, all of whom were so easily casted aside in order to move a step ahead.

With Frank’s deceiving plays, he was able to move from House Whip to the Vice Presidency within 13 episodes of the first season. Any fan will realize, while Vice Presidency is achieved, Underwood has not yet accomplished what he has set out to do. Readers forewarned those who wish to continue reading, there are plenty of spoilers ahead.

“Hunt or be hunted,” the famous words spoken by Underwood in his powerful monologue directed to his dedicated viewership, setting the tone and theme of what surely turned into a bloodcurdling second season.

The season began where season one left off, with the Underwood’s returning from their nightly run together. The opening image of misty night run emphasized the unity between the two characters, who are fierce and determined while they run, similar to how they pursue their growing powerful positions in the political scene.

The incredible thing about the characters Frank and Claire Underwood (Spacey and Robin Wright) is their means of deceit. Perhaps this adds to their overwhelmingly complex marriage and character development, but they know how to play out a domino effect on political events, without much damage if any done to their reputation. It is a matter of putting ideas into the minds of the right person, and betting on the actions of said person.

They have a very Macbethian pursuit of power, mixed along with Machiavellian techniques that make them unstoppable. This is easily done with the egotistical make up of politics, but the matter that they go about manipulating the events that unfold is what makes the show an ingenious masterpiece.

A major pawn in Frank’s chess game of politics was Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), an inspiring journalist who was trying to find her own Watergate type of scandal (let’s be honest: what political journalist isn’t?) in order to be taken seriously by her editors and the newspaper community.

While Zoe was an asset in the first season, in the second she became too much of a liability, unable to stop asking questions revolving around a certain governor candidate who “committed suicide.” In the pursuit of the story revolving around Frank’s deadly methods of obtaining power, Zoe along with her editor/boyfriend Lucas and fellow journalist Janine try to follow the trail of deceit through an ex-prostitute that knew too much, Rachel.

Frank’s chief of staff, Doug, was the one in charge of relocating Rachel various times and keeping an eye on her to make sure she didn’t talk. Doug’s determination to keep Rachel from the public turns into an obsession, and their relationship becomes abusive and complicated (like almost every other one on the show). Dougs addictive personality is highlighted through constant reference to his alcoholic past, only now Rachel is his new drink of choice which ultimately gets him killed in the end.

However, in light of their inability to contact Rachel, Zoe continued to question Frank who ultimately results to his old ways of keeping her quiet, by pushing her in front of a moving train. That’s right folks, Zoe died right away, changing the entire dynamic of the show.

This season stayed pretty political. With many different political issues beginning to arise, for example the diplomacy with China and the need for a new House Whip. Of course Frank manipulates his choice of a Congresswoman, Jackie, into his old position.

The involvement of a new cast member who is a strong independent, unmarried, ex soldier to take the place of Frank for House Whip was a brilliant one. Jackie knows how to stand her ground and although acts tentative will pull the trigger, per say, when she needs to. However, like most in the show, she is not immune to Frank’s charms of deception and gives in to his idea of using dirt dug up about an old mentor of hers in order to take him out of the running.

This deception not only shows the nature and willingness of Jackie to get where she wants, but plays into the constant theme of the show mentioned earlier, the hunt or be hunted mentality that each character falls into. This constant fear of being hunted and the thirst for power over each other completely consumes them and justifies their actions as they go along. The Underwood’s, while power hungry, play into the Machiavellian scheme of the ends justifying the means.

The best plot by far is Claire Underwood’s admission to having an abortion as a result of a college rape. While, true, her admission was not entirely the truth (the two events were five years apart), yet it still empowered the many others who began to come out and say they were victims of this man as well. The one most notable was a marine who suffered traumatically after her attack and became the face of Claire’s story and bill to reform the military’s stance on sexual assault.

Now it is known that Underwood’s characters are Democrats, but it almost seems as though political party does not matter in the bigger scheme of the show. However, it was interesting to see that bipartisan fight for power shed a bit and shine a light on the very liberal view of a Vice Presidents wife who not only had an abortion but takes down a U.S. General for sexual assault. While sadly and realistically, the bill is dropped, it was still an amazing plot to bring light to in such a dynamic show.

Then there is poor President Walker (Michael Gill). He just cannot seem to get a grip on things throughout the seasons, mostly due to the fact that Frank Underwood is just better at playing the political game than he is. The next best plot is primarily focused on the backhand politics that are under the radar in a sense until it eventually blows up in the final few episodes. Mainly the plot thickens around the scandal of Tusk, a wealthy influential man who has a grasp on politics through his contributions to campaigns and parties. Tusk’s goal is to take down Underwood, and uses his resources in order to begin to do so creating Underwood’s arch nemesis, and maybe his match.

However, overall it’s a money-laundering scheme that is tied in with the China affairs, acted as the beginning of President’s downfall.  In order to avoid jail-time Underwood suggests giving records of all the meetings and travel logs of the President and himself for their political careers. Sadly the President and even Underwood were truly innocent of any money laundering involved with China, however the President was guilty of marital problems (mainly through conversations with the Underwood’s…). When this issue comes out, so does the President’s use of Xanax. Scandal after scandal has left the President with fewer than 20 percent approval rating, the lowest in history.

With a low approval rating Frank uses his ability to control Jackie to get her to call for impeachment. Through the President’s take down, Frank ultimately got what he has been after since the beginning of the first season. Within 13 more episodes, he went from Vice President to President. His goals succeeded, leaving Underwood with nothing to say to his audience as he leans over his new desk in the Oval Office.

PHOTO TAKEN from fanart.com